Earth Day Reflection

The Earth is one of the most majestic and beautiful creations of artwork that exist, from the highest mountain ridges to the lowest depths of the sea. As a child I would go outside daily and appreciate everything it offered me. I loved car rides watching the Pine trees dance in the wind and going to my Granddaddy’s house to watch him plow the pretty rows in the soil. I learned early that anything this pretty and natural must be appreciated and taken care of. As I grew older and began to travel more I saw different parts of the Earth from different views. I’ll never forget the first time I saw North Carolina from the window of an airplane and while I had lived there my whole life I had never seen it like this. Flying across the globe I would watch the Earth change and remember thinking it really is so much bigger than us.

The first time I had an opportunity to work with youth and teach them about the Earth through Environmental Education was a pivotal moment for me. This was the moment I realized that a new generation of youth had an entirely different connection with the outdoors. Where my generation was always outdoors waiting to be told to come inside, this generation was always inside and constantly questioned what they needed to go outside for. My work was cut out for me and it was hard. The question that loomed over me was how I would get these youth see the joy and wonder in being outdoors.

My favorite experience to answer this question took place at the Historic Yates Mill County Park. We let the kids experience the outdoors through activities that they had not experienced before such as canoeing, fishing, and walking a trail among other things. I was helping a boy set up his fishing pole. He had so many questions about how fishing works because this was his first time doing it. I answered all of his questions and reflected on the times my Dad had taken me fishing. Just like this boy I was filled with so many questions and my Dad smiled and answered them all. Once we got everything ready I showed him where to stand and what he should do. After about 15 minutes he saw the string start to dance and looked at me. I shook my head in agreeance and signaling yeah you got something. I told him to slowly pull up his pole and sure enough there was a fish. His eyes were wide with joy as he was shouting I have never caught anything before and Look! I have a fish. After he caught the fish the second round of questions flooded in.

In this moment I realized the importance of Environmental Education and knew I had to continue teaching kids about the outdoors. A year later environmental work took me to Perú as a Peace Corps Volunteer. The youth there had a wealth of knowledge about the outdoors and were always outdoors which was the complete opposite of what my first experience had been. Yet these students did not realize the wealth of their knowledge. I always made sure to acknowledge what they knew and position them as experts. They saw themselves as environmental stewards and wanted to continue helping their community. This experience taught me that sometimes youth just need support and someone to encourage them.

Throughout these experiences, as well as reflecting on my own, I have learned that you never know what people are coming to the table with and as environmental educators it is our duty to adapt and see what our audience needs. Everyone has connections to the outdoors but they are all diverse just like our Earth. We all have different experiences with outdoors and all of these experiences should be acknowledged to continue the work in the future.

Ti’Era Worsley